Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 33 :: Death

33 • Death

By the time several weeks had passed Harry had himself a group of first years who thought he was the next best thing to sliced bread, and their opinion of Blaise was quite similar. They seemed to greatly appreciate the fact that Harry and Blaise did not play politics within the house, and in fact, were willing to discuss just about anything but. That is, after their lessons were over.

Harry didn’t particularly care that the children had nothing of importance to impart to him about other members of Slytherin, or anyone else for that matter. He was pleased to note that they had formed up as a tightly knit group that looked out for each other, which according to Blaise, simply wasn’t the done thing. It was every man for himself in Slytherin, unless you managed to hold enough power to command others to do your bidding.

It seemed as though nothing much was going on aside from Hermione’s continued attempts to catch him and Ron at something that constituted being up to no good. Eventually, however, she seemed to have given up, though Harry and Ron kept to the new routine. Harry’s treatment of her remained the same, and Ron assured him that he was acting quite clueless about anything potentially deeply secretive that Harry might have confided to him.

Hermione appeared to take that as a sign that Harry had been just as tight-lipped with him as her and subsided to some degree, at least around Ron. She might not be happy about his continued indulgence in frivolity—the NEWTs were only a year away—but she did ease up in general.

It was a sunny Saturday morning when Harry received another note during breakfast, again delivered by Hedwig. Naturally, he was suspicious as soon as he spotted her winging toward him, but pushed that aside as he fussed over his owl and offered to share his meal with her. Once she had flown off he opened the note.

Harry,

I would be pleased if you would see me directly you’re finished with breakfast, in my office. The password is Licorice Allsorts.

A. Dumbledore

He gave a slight sigh and pushed the note into his pocket, then added more food to his plate to replace what Hedwig had taken. :Tom?:

:Yes, Harry? You know, you’ve really got to stop waking me up so early. I keep telling you, dark lords are nocturnal creatures.:

:And if I were offering sex? Would you be so disagreeable then?:

:That, my dear Harry, is an entirely different situation, I assure you. Now, what is it?:

:Another note from the pest. Wants to see me again after breakfast.:

After a bit of a pause Tom responded, :I see. I had hoped he would leave you alone for a while after that last incident.:

:Well, he did go against Snape’s prediction, so I wouldn’t put anything past him. He didn’t say anything about why, and he managed to get Hedwig to deliver it again. Speaking of which, I know there aren’t all that many snowy owls in the community, so we need to consider ways in which to disguise her.:

:You can blame Hagrid for picking out the rarest owl in the shop, then. But yes, I agree. Had Hedwig been a barn owl or such, it wouldn’t be an issue. I know you won’t abandon her, so I’ll add that to my list.:

A short time later, after he had told Blaise where he was off to, Harry made the walk to the headmaster’s office at an even pace, not wanting to appear either that he was anxious or that he was deliberately dawdling. Once inside and having had seated himself at Dumbledore’s gesture, Harry looked up attentively.

“There were a few things I wanted to discuss with you, Harry.”

“All right, sir.”

“First, I wanted to bring up the fact that you still seem to be rather isolated this year, and wondered if there was a problem of any kind.”

Harry blinked slowly and said, “Isolated? Sir, I don’t think my situation differs all that much from before. After all, most people would rather believe what the media has to say about me than bother to get to know me, so it isn’t as though I had many close friends. The biggest difference now is that I have a friend in Slytherin, which might have been impossible previously.”

“And yet,” Dumbledore countered, “you seem to have less people than before willing to spend time in your company. Or, perhaps, you are less willing to spend time in theirs.”

Harry furrowed his brow as Tom sent, :That’s an interesting accusation.:

“I suppose you could say that, sir. It is true that a lot of people were put off by my re-sort. It’s almost as though they think I’ve changed or something, though I can’t imagine why. I thought it was rather peculiar last year that as many people decided to join the DA, and still displayed a marked distrust of me despite that decision.” He shrugged lightly and added, “I’m not sure I really understand people. I’m not really sure I understand myself for that matter.”

Dumbledore gave a slight nod. “And what of the DA? Has that continued?”

Harry ducked his head for a moment, trying his best to arrange his expression into being somewhat stricken, then looked back up. “I should have asked you, sir, shouldn’t I. I’m sorry. I just thought that you were perfectly all right with it last year, so. . . .”

“I have no objection to your group, Harry. I am pleased to know that you have continued to remain focused, and that you continue to assist your friends.”

Harry brightened and launched into several minutes of explanation of things they had been working on, concluding with their recent efforts to incorporate other branches of magic into their repertoire of defensive knowledge, all while ignoring Tom’s comments about his ability at acting. “I’m still rather disappointed, though, that Professor McGonagall tells me I’ll need to wait until auror training before I can really learn what I need.”

“I’m sure you will have no problems with that once you finish your seventh year. Until that time, I believe you are well on your way. However, that does not address the issue of isolation, Harry.”

“I really don’t mind, sir. I mean, I’ve always been isolated, don’t you think? People have always been interested in me for all the wrong reasons, so I’m very lucky to have friends who don’t really care about that stuff.” He paused for a moment, then said, “Oh! You might like to know that I’ve been helping the first year Slytherins with Defense.”

Dumbledore raised his brows marginally.

“I’m really pleased with them, sir. They’re becoming a rather cohesive group, and I think that in the years to come, they’ll not only understand that working as part of a team can be greatly to their benefit, but also that a former Gryffindor isn’t such a bad thing. You know how the sorting hat has been telling us for several years that we need to break down the barriers and stick together, learn how to overcome our differences. It’s all very well to consider how something affects you personally, but I think they’re on their way to also seeing the larger picture.”

“I find that to be very encouraging news, Harry.”

:Yes, of course he does. You’re a one man propaganda machine, Harry.:

“I’m hoping that the first years next year will also be willing to see things from a broader point of view, and be a lot more open to crossing the line, especially if this year’s group helps them out as well. I could actually imagine that at some point Slytherin house could lift itself up out of the rather nasty reputation it has.”

“I think you are setting a very good example for them,” Dumbledore commented, “and this does relieve some of my concerns. How did this come about?”

“Oh, they asked me at dinner one night, sir. I was really surprised at first, but maybe it’s just that Blaise and I sit at that end of the table and they’ve been listening while we talk about stuff. Maybe I didn’t seem so . . . I don’t know . . . untouchable? It would be nice to believe that they might be able to grow up knowing that they have options. That they can be Slytherin without feeling as though they must join Voldemort.”

Dumbledore nodded sagely, then said, “Again, encouraging. In that case, we shall move along to the next topic. It has recently come to my attention that Voldemort considers the link between the two of you as much of a threat as a benefit. To that end, reports indicate that he has been occluding his mind so that you cannot inadvertently learn anything from him about his plans. Therefore, it is just as well that you seem to be doing well with your own lessons, as that means he cannot attempt another of his underhanded manipulation schemes.”

Harry appeared to consider that, ostensibly ignoring the snort of derision that sounded in his mind, then said, “Do you think that’s why I’ve been able to sleep so much better, sir?”

“That is very likely, Harry. It may be that after your vision of Nagini’s attack, he realized that he could draw you in, and then formulated his plans to lure you to the Ministry. However, I would not doubt he decided after the fact that we would be prepared for further incursions, and that it was possible you could learn as much from him, and so began closing himself off. At any rate, perhaps we should discuss the prophecy to some extent.”

Harry hesitated, then said with a touch of reluctance, “Yes, if you think that’s best, sir.”

“There will come a time, Harry, when you and Voldemort will face off as equals. I have no doubt that you will defeat him.”

“Yes, but. . . .”

“But you wonder exactly how. I told you once before that love has a great deal to do with it. You, Harry, have something Voldemort can never possess. He cannot understand it, and therefore fears it. You have the capacity to care about others, and to feel and experience things he never would, being mired as he is within the darker emotions we as a species are capable of.”

“I’m not sure I understand, though, sir.”

“Part of your power comes from your emotions, Harry, and love is a thing of purity. It also allows you to draw to you others who would assist you, and that in turn gives you additional power. Voldemort feeds off pain, despair, and similar things. You might think that would make him far more powerful than you could ever be, but it is simply not so. Your source of strength is part of why I have been concerned about your isolation, though I can see that you are making strides toward making more friends, and that can only benefit you further.”

:Yes, like a leech,: Tom commented, causing Harry’s mouth to twitch.

“The dark uses fear as a weapon, wielding it to drive others to a sense of hopelessness and despair. Those who are wise enough reject such manipulation and stand firm against those tactics. Even as the dark will have a dark lord, the light will produce a champion, whether by design or circumstance. And though the dark will attempt to subdue others and force them into submission, it is always a temporary situation, and the light has and always will prevail.”

“And I’m that champion,” Harry said softly.

“Yes. And you have proven repeatedly that you are able to stand against Voldemort, Harry.”

Harry frowned slightly and shook his head slowly. “And I’ve always had to be rescued, sir.”

“Only because you were not quite ready yet, Harry. You have still managed to thwart his plans at every turn. It has only been when it became apparent that you were at your current limits that intervention was required.”

:That’s fairly close to an admission of grooming me like some show pony.:

“I found it very encouraging that you forced Voldemort to retreat this last time, without any help whatsoever, which brings us back to the source of your power against him. I would like for you to keep that firmly in mind, Harry, as the days go by, and consider how it has applied to your confrontations in the past. I think you’ll find that it has played an immeasurable part of your success to date.”

“All right, sir.”

“Then unless you have any questions, you may run along, Harry.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Once out in the relative safety of the corridor he sent, :I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised by that meeting.:

:No, though I think much of what he said was pointless. Still, if you were what you appear to be, I suppose it might matter.:

:Yes, but do you think he was reassured? He seemed happier after I mentioned the first years.:

:It is possible he thinks you are, in fact, down there converting the heathens. If you were to be successful in diverting the current crop from a theoretical lifetime of servitude to a dark lord, they could, as you implied, pass that on to further years, starting a snowball effect of change.:

:But not necessarily the years above.:

:No, but it’s already apparent that not everyone is willing to see Malfoy as an example of a good Slytherin, and they obviously aren’t queuing up to join Voldemort, either. I take his willingness to bring up the prophecy to be a good thing, Harry.:

:What, that he doesn’t believe anything is wrong in connection with me, and that it’s time to move things up a notch as far as my upcoming victory?:

:I’m saying that what he had to say isn’t entirely baseless. However, I think he’s oversimplifying things. There will always be cycles of light and dark. He’s trying to wind up your confidence in anticipation of the next changeover.:

:It sounds to me as though he doesn’t really understand that prophecy,: Harry retorted.

:That could also be true.:

*

In that same amount of time, Tom had taken to frequently visiting his home to check up on Severus’s mother, and to see if his forays into her mind produced any substantive results. He was slowly coming to realize that while Harry’s speculations held some merit, they were not entirely accurate. Eileen was not so much insane as disconnected from reality.

Insofar as Tom could tell, she wasn’t aware of the real world. It was as though the defenses of the mind created a barrier to protect her ‘self’ from the pain of torture, and having come into being, it also locked her away from reality. Naturally, all of this was related to Harry once Tom had arrived at his preliminary conclusions.

“Then I suppose the question is how long do you think it would take to get her back, and what would it entail?” asked Harry as he reached for another helping of roast potatoes.

“I think,” Tom said ponderously, “that I would need you to act as an anchor for me, to ensure that I did not somehow get lost within her mind. As for how long, I cannot say for certain.”

Harry nodded and poured more gravy on his plate, then said, “Well, all right. If you think she’s in no danger of worsening, is it something we should put off until after the showdown, or should we begin sooner?”

“She’s under the very best of care. I think that so long as I check in every so often and she remains as she is, it would be better for us to wait until later. It would be preferable to keep things on an even keel until that point, and I have no idea how much energy it will take for us to accomplish our goal for her. On an unrelated note, should we be expecting Remus to visit soon?”

“Eh?” Harry blinked and tilted his head. “You mean because of Easter?” When Tom nodded he continued, “I’ll ask. The pest may have him off on another pointless mission. I assume you’re asking because you don’t object if he can.”

“I don’t object,” Tom assured him. “And even if I did, I would put up with him because of what he means to you. Unlike our dear Severus, I will not judge him based on the past, and certainly not one in which I had no real part.”

Harry thought about that for a moment and nodded, then said, “And besides, you like him.”

“That I do.”

*

Things began to come to a head shortly after Easter break. Remus had, in fact, quietly slipped into Tom’s Hogsmeade house and alerted Harry of his presence via a nondescript owl, and it was no trouble for Dobby to fetch him to the Chamber complex for another visit.

And while they did spend some of that time discussing their plans for Harry’s departure from his aunt’s house on Privet Drive, and what was to come after, they mainly focused on enjoying each other’s company. Harry chose not to bring up the subject of Godric’s Hollow just yet, preferring to wait until after things had been resolved.

What was more interesting was a rather guarded conversation that had taken place in the library between Remus and Severus. Harry, who had been quietly talking with Tom, could not help but overhear a discussion about the last prank his group had done, and thoughts on a possible final prank for the year. Naturally, this surprised Harry greatly, as he would never in a million years have thought Snape would willingly be a part of such a discussion, never mind offer up ideas on the subject.

A slightly tilted head and arched brow informed Harry without words that Tom was also paying attention to the other two men, and was likewise surprised. Neither made verbal comment on it, preferring to wait to see if either Remus or Severus would to them, and instead they continued their own conversation. As it was, the subject remained unbroached to them, but it did give Harry a somewhat interesting idea.

*

“I hereby call this meeting to order,” Harry stated firmly while rapping his knuckles thrice on the table beside him.

“By what authority?” he was challenged.

Harry paused, blinked, then said, “Because I said so?”

“Oh, well, that’s all right, then,” Ron said agreeably, then grabbed an eclair from a waiting plate of snacks.

Blaise arched a brow. “I take it that means you’ve thought of something else to do—since you’re being so authoritative, that is.”

“Of course. Though, it’s not an exceptional idea. And it’s not so much a prank as simply providing a bit of harmless fun for everyone. Who knows, it might cut down on some of the stress people are feeling about upcoming exams. Assuming you two think it’s worth doing, we’ll have to start researching the best way to go about it, and pick a date.”

*

They had to wait for the last shift of prefects to return to their dorms before they began their work, and chose to do so while disillusioned. Much like before, it would not be long before the first early-rising students would be getting up and heading down for breakfast, so they needed to work quickly and quietly on their last effort of the school year, and be sure not to be caught out by their own machinations.

And once they were finished with the group work, Ron skittered up the main staircase and began trapping the area the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw students would be using, while Harry took care of the Hufflepuffs and Blaise the Slytherins. Luckily, the secret passage Harry needed to use came out beyond where Blaise needed to enchant, so it wasn’t as though he need worry about counter spelling himself on the short journey back to their house.

When Harry and Blaise did emerge in order to head to breakfast, they willingly stepped into the spelled zone and immediately felt quite a bit of bounce in their step, and saw a message flash before them in the air above the center of the entrance hall.

Step carefully, or don’t,
Either way you won’t,
Walk as mortals do.
Reach the heights or fall,
Collide with the wall,
Have fun getting through.

Around them was a mass of confusion. Some students were clutching at each other in fright, while others were joyfully bouncing up, off the walls, and even tumbling in the air. Harry fancied he could imagine some of the more speedy students having come down from the upper levels of the castle, seeing them in his mind’s eye having hit the spelled zone and gone zooming off into the air at the next rushed step, no doubt much to their surprise.

Blaise did not wait or comment; he bounced off into the hall looking rather like an astronaut during the videos of the moon landing. ‘Well, he really did want to play with this,’ Harry thought. Then he spied Colin Creevey busily taking photographs, Hermione not far behind him with a disapproving scowl on her face at the more or less rampant frivolity taking place before her eyes.

He could almost hear her thoughts on the situation. After all, exams were only a couple of weeks away. People would be much better served by spending their time in diligent study, not in having fun. Harry shrugged, mentally more than physically, and took off himself, bounding and tumbling across the room in the general direction of the Great Hall.

As soon as he touched down just inside the doors he stuck in place for several seconds, the spell work removing the bounce from his step and forcing him to be still long enough to regain his equilibrium. He wondered how many students would suffer further surprise when they realized that leaving the Great Hall would have them bouncing around again until they hit one of the original zones.

With that thought pleasantly on his mind he found his usual seat and loaded his plate, pausing only long enough to send a faint smirk at his head of house before indulging his hunger.

*

A week later found Harry fidgeting in the entrance hall with Blaise while waiting for a forgetful Ron to fetch a few things from his dorm before they headed off to Hogsmeade. It would be their last legitimate chance to go that year. The final quidditch game of the year was in two weeks, and directly after that exams began.

He wasn’t especially worried about his exams, though he would certainly do his best. There was no sense in upsetting any of his professors or giving them reason to suspect anything was amiss. However, his two friends could use the break from the school itself even if there wasn’t anything in particular they wished to do while away.

Ron finally arrived, looking a bit harried, with Ginny, Neville, Luna, and Hermione in tow. Harry heaved an internal sigh and gave Ron a supportive smile. “Are we ready? Last chance to really relax before the final push.”

So they went, largely ignoring or downplaying Hermione’s depressing comments, and swept through the village at a leisurely pace, investigating everything and anything that might be of interest. Discussion at lunch was given over to DA progress and areas in which Ginny and Luna might need any last minute help with before their OWLs.

Dinner, however, back at the school, was marked by the decided absence of several members of the staff. Harry looked at Blaise, who naturally had no more idea what was up than he did, then to the first years who clustered at their end of the table. They didn’t seem to notice that anything was wrong.

:Tom?:

:Yes, Harry.:

:Er, have any of the portraits spoken up today? Dumbledore and all the heads of houses are missing from the staff table.:

After a slight pause Tom replied, :I’m not sure what’s going on at the moment. I was informed of an altercation earlier—in Fluffy’s chamber, actually—but I get the feeling that whatever has happened, the serpent in Dumbledore’s office has not felt free to report in. And that’s assuming that they’re gathered up there and not someplace where we don’t have a spy.:

Harry forced himself not to frown. Fluffy’s chamber meant Malfoy, which meant it was exceedingly likely he was involved. Had it something to do with Draco’s manipulations of possible Death Eater students? :An altercation. The serpent there wasn’t able to explain better?:

:Finish your dinner, Harry. We can talk about this once we’re able to have some privacy.:

He was not pleased with that non-answer, but refrained from protesting. Instead he continued on, eating, asking the first years about their day, and chatting with Blaise, all while trying not to think about Tom’s odd silence on the matter. Afterward he led the first years down to his room, joined by Blaise, for a mini-session on Defense to make up for having missed their usual just after lunch.

And when he was finally alone and able to join Tom, his bonded was uncharacteristically cagey about things. “I’m not sure of how much I actually ought to say. As it is, I have to wonder if any sort of announcement will be made at breakfast.”

Harry shot Tom a bit of a glare. “Why?”

“Because it might be better if your reaction was genuine should that happen. Then, I mean.”

“I can understand that, I think. But, Tom, whatever happened, I was with the others all damn day. If you’re worried about suspicion of some sort falling on me, I’m not sure why. And that makes me think something really awful happened. Besides, I usually don’t go to breakfast on Sundays and you know that.”

Tom heaved a sigh and nodded. “All right. Malfoy and his goons met with several Ravenclaws in Fluffy’s chamber. No surprise there. However, a fight broke out over what Draco has been up to, namely blackmail and extortion. The minute the fighting started that Edgecombe girl fled, presumably to fetch a professor. By the time one arrived, Malfoy was . . . dead.”

“Dead!?”

Tom gave him a pointed look. “Yes, dead. The Ravenclaw boy managed a fatal shot during the fracas, even with the goon squad there to get in the way. Presumably, the lot of them are all in Dumbledore’s office at present being questioned, and I assume that Draco is being hidden in the infirmary somewhere.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. Sure, he knew at some point that his boyhood rival would end up dead due to his association with Voldemort, but so unexpectedly? What on earth had he been doing to cause such a violent reaction from a fellow student? “Was it an accident?”

Tom shrugged. “It was rather difficult for the serpent to say. From what I gathered, that boy, Thistledown, strenuously objected to the path Malfoy was leading him down. As I said, blackmail and extortion. Apparently the Ravenclaw was using Malfoy as a supplier of certain illicit potions and such, and Malfoy chose to tell him this time around that the price had just been increased, except this time it wasn’t for gold. Rather, service to the Dark Lord. Malfoy miscalculated badly. He must have thought he had Thistledown tightly enough under his control to make such a bold move, and it obviously didn’t work.”

“I’ll say,” responded Harry. “He also must have thought he had enough on Edgecombe to even bother mentioning it in her presence. Of course, she ran off again to tattle, though in this case I can’t say I object.”

“At any rate,” Tom continued, “Thistledown objected with his wand and somewhere during the fight he managed a killing shot, though I get the impression it was not the killing curse.”

Harry flopped sideways on the couch and stretched out. “I really just don’t know how to feel about this.”

“I admit,” Tom said slowly, “that I’ve told you very little about what Malfoy has been up to, but you gave me the impression that you’d rather not know the details. If I was wrong, I apologize.”

He shook his head immediately. “No, I’m not bothered by that. I’m not saying willful denial is a good thing, but there are things I sometimes just don’t want to know. Not having asked is as much as saying don’t tell me, I suppose.”

They sat there in silence for some time before the hissing of a serpent brought them both to full attention. “I have come to report, masters.”

“Please do so.”

“Edgecombe, Crabbe, Goyle, and Thistledown are being held overnight here in the castle in separate rooms. Malfoy’s body is in a private room in the infirmary. The Ministry has already been informed of what happened and will be arriving in the morning to take Thistledown into custody pending a trial. The others will be removed later in order to give testimony.”

“Did it come out exactly how Malfoy died?”

“A cutting curse hit him in the neck, masters. He died almost instantly.”

Harry felt the absurd urge to make a joke about Malfoy’s vanity at that point, but choked it back. He also left unvoiced the sentiment that Narcissa Malfoy would not be worrying any further over what her son might do to the family fortune.

Several minutes later the serpent had told all it knew and had departed back to its position in Dumbledore’s office. It was then that Tom subjected him to a rather piercing look. “A suggestion.”

“Yes?”

“In the interests of safety, I recommend you remove your memory of this evening’s revelations to a pensieve until such time as you are informed of what happened in the normal course of things. And I do mean remove, not copy. After you find out again and have reacted, I will produce the pensieve so you can be once more fully aware of tonight.”

Harry let out something resembling a laugh. “Not unless I write something down telling me that I agreed to this. Otherwise I might try to argue with you about this.”

Tom favored him with an understanding smile. “So be it.”

A short time later it was done and Harry had an alarming gap in his memory for the evening, but the note he had written to himself allayed his concern for the time being, and Tom further distracted him by seducing him with another massage. And given another suggestion, he stayed in his own room that night with a promise of information later on.

He had already eaten breakfast and was curled up on his couch when his door was rapped on sharply several times, and after setting down his book he hastened to check who was there (presumably Blaise) and open it. Blaise stepped in looking a bit wild and immediately pushed the door shut, then said bluntly, “Malfoy is dead.”

That occasioned a fairly long conversation with Blaise telling Harry every bit of gossip he had managed to overhear, and for the first time since the school year had begun, Harry left his rooms on a Sunday and went off with Blaise to track down Ron to see if he knew anything. Granted, Harry knew all he had to do was ask Tom, but decided to wait until later on that day before acting to regain whatever he had lost.

As it turned out, the most recent gossip intimated that Thistledown had never made it to the Ministry, though no one seemed to know why. Ron wondered, though not without a few faintly quizzical looks at Harry, if this constituted their yearly run in with Voldemort, or if it was only the beginning. Eventually Harry declared that enough was enough.

“It’s just about lunch, guys, and at the risk of sounding really uncaring, I’ve already wasted enough time on this. I just want to go back to my room at this point.”

“Well, it’s not like there’s anything we can actually do except talk about it,” said Blaise. “And at the risk of sounding equally uncaring, I’m hungry, so lunch it is. I’ll see you later.” And with that Blaise was off.

Harry dashed off a quick note and thrust it at Ron, then headed out, with Ron catching up to walk with him and breaking off as they hit the bottom of the main stair. By the time Ron joined them after lunch in the library, Harry had already regained his memory of the evening before. After quickly filling his friend in on the additional information, Harry turned to Tom with a somewhat accusatory look and said, “So Thistledown never made it to the Ministry. I wonder what happened.”

Tom cleared his throat and glanced off to one side. “It’s amazing how similar in build Thistledown is to you, Harry.”

“I see. And should we expect to see anything alarming in tomorrow’s paper?”

“Possibly. But really, I can’t imagine it would be anything all that interesting. More of the usual, I’m sure.”

Harry left it at that.